38,000 GP appointments missed in Sunderland at cost of £1.14million

Tens of thousands of Wearsiders are putting the NHS under added pressure by failing to turn up to their doctor's appointments - costing more than £1million in the process.

Thursday, 4th January 2018, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 4th January 2018, 4:10 pm
Practice manager Paul Weddle, of Millfield Medical Centre, who has been working with his team to reduce the number of missed appointments.

Surgeries across the city have reported that 38,000 GP appointments were missed over a 12-month period, which at an average cost of £30 a time adds up a bill to the service at £1.14million.

On top of that, thousands more fail to turn up to checks or procedures carried out with nurses and health care assistants.

Jackie Spencer, head of general practice commissioning at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group.

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The figures equate to more than 100 missed appointments per day and come after the Echo’s own research, as part of our Big Cities Survey published last month, revealed 47% of you said you had struggled to get an appointment with a GP in the last year.

{Related: Why missed appointments are such a nightmare for GPs: One Sunderland surgery shares its story|https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/health/why-missed-appointments-are-such-a-nightmare-for-gps-one-sunderland-surgery-shares-its-story-1-8939778}

Jackie Spencer, head of general practice commissioning at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Most people take the time to notify their practice if they can’t make it to an appointment, but a significant minority do not.

“We understand that people have busy lives, but every one of these is a slot that could have been used by someone else.

Patient missed appointment's at Millfield Medical Centre. New cancellation phone app.

“We are supporting practices across Sunderland to reduce the number of patients failing to attend appointments.”

As part of a drive to ensure people either attend or call up to cancel, an app is being used to prompt people about their appointments and give then a quick way to let their surgery know if they cannot get to it.

Ms Spencer added: “An app known as MJOG is available for patients to download, which will confirm when any GP appointments have been booked as well as sending reminders, with the option to cancel if they are no longer needed.

Patient missed appointment's at Millfield Medical Centre.

“Patients can also book and cancel appointments online or through the Patient Access app.

“This app also has the added benefit of allowing patients to request repeat prescriptions.

“This has helped to reduce the number of missed appointments by 774 in October and November compared to the same time last year.

“This is equivalent to around £20,000 worth of appointments.

Jackie Spencer, head of general practice commissioning at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group.

“With health services facing high levels of demand in winter, this is one way we can all help to protect the NHS.

“It only takes minutes to make that call.”

The issue has also been taken up by Healthwatch Sunderland after the wait to get an appointment at a GP surgery became the most frequent piece of negative feedback from people to its engagement team and group of volunteers.

It asked practice managers across the city to report how many appointments had been missed during a month-long period, not just with GPs, but other medical staff.

It received 31 responses from 49 centres, stating the number of no shows for appointments with GPs stood at 1,644, 286 for nurse practitioners, 1,095 practice nurse appointments and 627 practice nurse sessions.

Some surgeries have additional clinicians such as, district nurses, pharmacists and clinical nurses, which totalled 64.

Patient missed appointment's at Millfield Medical Centre. New cancellation phone app.

A spokeswoman for Healthwatch Sunderland said: “We realise that GPs and other practitioners will use their time which would have normally been spent with those patients who miss appointments to do a range of other jobs, such as referrals to consultants.

“But this means that 3,698 people waited longer than necessary for an appointment at their practice.

“That’s around five appointments a day in each of the practices.

“Do your bit to reduce GP waiting times.”

The group has voiced its support for the MJOG app.

It can be downloaded via http://www.mjog.com/messenger/To give Healthwatch Sunderland feedback on health and social care services visit www.healthwatchsunderland.com or call (0191) 514 7145.

IF YOU CANNOT MAKE IT - GET IN TOUCH

One Sunderland surgery has revealed how up to 10 patients a day are missing their appointments - with up to 400 a month failing to turn up after booking a slot.

Millfield Medical Centre in Hylton Road, Sunderland, manages 13,200 residents and on an average month deals with 3,500 appointments.

Of those, up to 200 are missed by patients who have booked to see one of its nine GPs, while around the same number again fail to attend their appointment with its team of five nurses.

It is among the centres who use the MJOG app, which it says is helping to keep patients on track and give them another avenue to cancel, should they no longer need to see a healthcare professional or not able to make the time and date.

It tries to ensure those who have turned up ready to be seen are then called in as soon as possible, as well as reorganise the diary and free up space for more patients if people call up to cancel.

Its patient group also discusses the issue on a regular basis as it works to reduce the problem.

Its practice business manager Paul Weddle said: “With between 180 and 200 missed appointments a month, that’s a significant chunk of our appointments and at 10 minutes each, that period of time adds up to a good few hours.

“With 10 missed appointments a day, that’s time the surgery misses because a GP is waiting for their patient.

“The cost of a GP appointment is £22.60, so if you add how much that costs the NHS with 200 missed appointments, that’s a lot of money.

“From our point of view, we just want to reduce the number.

“It’s really about educating patients that if they can’t make it, they can get in touch to cancel and even if we have half an hour’s notice, then that’s what we need to be able to open that appointment back up to other patients.”

Patient missed appointment's at Millfield Medical Centre.